Nearly one in three teenagers have sent a naked picture of themselves at least once.”
That is a shocking statistic – and clearly we need to know more. Some of you may have got tablets for your kids for Christmas, and are now wondering anything from how you manage preschoolers screen time, to worrying about what your older children are actually doing on them….
I was lucky enough to attend a roundtable discussion on Commit to Protect, a new eSafety initiative set up to gain a commitment from political parties to make children’s online safety a priority for whomever takes power in the next UK government. The UK Safer Internet Centre, Point 2 Protect, The Anti-Bullying Alliance, Maria Miller, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Plymouth University and Luke Roberts, a Youth Mentor from Resolve Consultancy have come together to try and move kids’ internet safety up the political agenda.
Educating kids around eSafety is something that we care passionately about at KiddyCharts – but why?
Did you know, according to UK Safer Internet Centre’s Ken Cornish ….
“A few years ago mobile usage amongst 3-4 year olds was less than 1%, now it is over 50%.”
That means that our kids, from an age when they are just learning to talk, are interacting with the online world. We are nurturing a generation of children that are much more comfortable in front of a tablet than their parents. In fact, if you observe a child that has been introduced to a new screen based tech gadget, their first instinct is to swipe it….
This means that as parents, we need to be acutely aware of both what our children are doing online, and what is available for them to do…we might be able to understand what the “in thing” is in 2014, but that knoweldge won’t help us in two years time when the landscape for social interaction, and technology has changed significantly. Mobile technology means that our kids can access anything, anywhere; and most importantly can BE contacted in many more ways than we ever could be. Our phone was always in the hall so my mum count hear what I was saying on it…how on earth do we put all of today’s technology “in the hall”?!?
All of these developments means that it is unlikely that it will be sufficient for us parents to work in isolation to protect our kids – it also means that children with parents that are less able, or willing, to help educate, need someone else to guide them through the online quagmire.
Internet safety is not all about us, or them, or indeed, the government – is HAS to be about co-operation….
- Parents need to take responsibility for understanding what their kids are doing. Is it really good enough to say….oh I don’t understand Snapchat, so I just let them get on with it? Should we be actively making sure we DO understand it sufficiently to be able to assess its dangers, and to find out whether or not we are comfortable with the actions that our kids take on there? Nearly ONE IN THREE teenage kids have sent a naked picture of themselves…do they know that that picture could now be there forever for someone to see, and abuse? Point 2 Protect advocate the use, with 10-16 year olds, of social networks with monitoring and not the simple blanket ban that some parents may feel is the only alternative. Perhaps we can even get our own kids to educate us? Ian Skeels, from Point 2 Protect even suggests that we all…
“Play the dumb parent”
- Industry needs to work co-operatively to insure that there are systems in place to track down criminality and abuse within their networks. Should it be OK to hide behind the premise that someone is “behaving” badly on their social network, and so it isn’t their responsiblity? We are a social network, and we can’t control behaviour? Reporting abuse needs to be easier too, and the publicising of mechanisms to help parents and schools needs to be more prevalent. CEOP are trying to enable more effective reporting, and their role should be publicised and supported effecitvely. Campaigns like Zip it. Block it. Flag it. from TalkTalk and Vodaphoe’s Digital Parenting websites are great examples of how industry can help – but are these being promoted enough as a source of help for us on eSafety? Have you heard of them? I certainly hadn’t before I researched this article, and I consider myself to be pretty internet savvy….
- Government has to put its money where its mouth is, and David Cameron’s recent announcement about working with industry, and funding new initiatives around child abuse images should help to start the battle, but clearly it is only the beginning. What about cyber-bulling? Sexting? And what about the next online vogue in two years time that we haven’t even come across yet? Schools needs to be provided with funding, and up to date professional development to aid them in a constantly shifting landscape. In addition to this, perhaps it would be prudent to try and involve young people in our policy making so they feel they have a voice, AND to help to understand why cyperbullies behave as they do. Criminalising may not be the answer, perhaps a prevention strategy would assist in reducing some of the instances of this type of behaviour?
Aside from co-operation to educate those parents that are willing to go on this new journey, there is, according to Ian Skeels, we have an Elephant in the Room:
“It is all about parent engagement. How to we get past the 20% engaged to get to the other 80%?”
Does that mean it is about us, as parents, trying to reach our peers, and lobbying our schools and local goverment authorities to help fund some of these initiatives? I think that IS, and SHOULD be, part of the story, so if you are keen to get eSafety on the agenda, why not take a look at the Commit to Protect manifesto and petition, and find your voice to help your kids to manage theirs online?
Surely it is worth investing a little of our time so that our kids are safer online? We all need to play a part, so that this three-pronged approach to eSafety has a chance to take hold instead of falling by the wayside as many initiaitives undoubedly have before….